Gaza — An Exercise in Subtle Intelligence

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Intelligence work is usually thought of as being conducted by costly and sometimes high tech methods. A glance at the intelligence budgets of the US, Russia, China, and a few others would confirm that view.

For the most part, that view is accurate.

 

canstock-2016-sep-spy-satellite

We expect our intelligence agencies to use extravagantly expensive satellites, planes, drones, submarines, ships, and listening stations. They do, and those methods often lead to obtaining critical intelligence.

We also expect agencies to conduct Human Intelligence, or “HUMINT.” HUMINT requires vast amounts of personnel around the globe and at home to penetrate the governments, military, and industries of states that are of concern to us. It’s expensive, but it does indeed get results. It never gets as many results as we would like, but it gets a lot more than if we didn’t try.

Teams of analysts rely on these and other sources to create best guesses about what is going on in the world. With so much data of various forms arriving all day, every day, every week at the desks of various teams, it’s not always easy to sift through the chaff to find the best wheat. The collective experience of an analytical team is a huge factor in this. Modern computers with good software help improve the results.

With so much high dollar, high tech spying going on, it’s easy to miss subtler pieces of intelligence that become available to us. Yet sometimes, these seemingly mundane, inglorious bits of information can give us important insights.

One current example of an important subtle bit of information is staring us in the face in the Gaza Strip.

In a land where bombs, missiles, assassinations, and kidnappings are daily events, sets of well-proven expectations enter into our judgements about the current situation in Gaza. One clearly verifiable phenomena occurring in Gaza today is the change amongst Palestinian voters regarding the upcoming elections, which will possibly be held this October.

In the 2005 elections, Hamas ran on a We Hate Israel So You Must Love Us platform. That platform plank was supported by another tried-and-true Hamas marketing method, the Love Us and Vote for us or We Kill You method.

 

canstock-2016-sep-burning-flags-of-palestine-and-israel

Unlike the Palestinian West Bank, where the Fatah political group held sway, in Gaza, Hamas had most of the guns and controlled most of the local media so Hamas got the votes. The Vote for Us or We Kill You method is effective for winning elections. It’s far less effective at governing. Hamas has demonstrated the difference very clearly.

Thanks to Hamas, Gaza is an economic disaster, a health disaster, and a hellish place for Palestinian children to live.

The basic fact that Hamas is even worse than the governments in places like Chicago or DC when it comes to completing the basic tasks of government is no great intelligence coup. As long as Hamas could show that they were hurting Israel, they could keep their outside financial support from Europe, various fellow terrorist governments, the UN, etc. The question of whether or not Hamas would govern anything other than the usual Kill the Jews program was generally ignored by many Palestinians and many outsiders.

So here is the good news.

Unlike during the 2005 campaign, Palestinians are frequently and sometimes openly speaking against Hamas. Hamas’s chief rival, Fatah, is happy about that. But when we look more closely, the Palestinians in Gaza are not expressing much love for Fatah either.

The most important piece of intelligence data in Gaza today has to do with the Palestinian people in Gaza.

They are less impressed than ever with suicide bombs in Israel, missiles fired into Israel, kidnapping of Israelis, etc. The majority of the Palestinian public in Gaza is now most concerned with fixing Gaza. They want real schools, real health care, jobs, and reconstruction of the many bombed out areas of Gaza. Crushing Israel is not on most of their wish lists.

Both Fatah and Hamas are aware of this shift in their respective voters.

Both groups have responded with massive social media campaigns. Both parties have adopted newer platforms, or at least are presenting them in social media. In fact, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get a few Gaza trolls attacking this article.

The problem for both groups, but especially for Hamas, is that few Palestinians are buying Hamas’s shiny new You’re Better Off Today Than You Were Six Years Ago campaign.

Palestinians are openly laughing at Hamas’s ridiculous claims of having improved life in Gaza. It hasn’t, and the folks in Gaza know it and admit it.  In particular, young Palestinian adults are mocking Hamas’s social media campaign. They routinely convert Hamas campaign videos into dark comedy.

None of this means that we should expect a sudden and dramatic change in life in Gaza after the October elections.

The Palestinian public may not be able to exercise a democratic choice. A panicking Hamas is capable of anything. But an important implication for intelligence on Gaza should not be ignored. The Kill the Jews sales pitch is no longer a sufficiently popular product with the voters in Gaza.

canstock-2016-sep-palestine-and-israel-flags

Over time, this may lead to improvement in Gaza and a lessening of the conflict with Israel. A few decades ago, an Israeli woman told me, “There will be peace in Israel and Palestine when Palestinians love their children more than they hate Israeli children.” I have always been certain that she was right. That day may be arriving in Gaza.

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The Changing Face of US — Mid-East Relations, Part One

By Jay Holmes

The cancerous growth of ISIS across Syria and Iraq since 2014 both exacerbates and illuminates a series of changes in US-Middle East relations. The most crucial and obvious of these changes is to the relationships between the US and Iraq, Iran, Israel, Egypt, and Turkey.

 

Kurdish YPG fighting in Kobane, Feb. 4, 2015. Image by Voice of America, wikimedia commons.

Kurdish YPG fighters in Kobane, Feb. 4, 2015.
Image by Voice of America, wikimedia commons.

 

The simplest case to review from the whirlwind of US foreign policy transformations is the relationship between the US and Iraq.

When ISIS rolled into Iraq, the US-financed and Iraqi-led Iraqi Army collapsed anywhere ISIS appeared or threatened to appear. Only the lightly armed, poorly supplied Kurds halted the tide of ISIS terror. The much better armed, well-financed Iraqi Army proved to be an embarrassment to themselves and to the US administration that had overseen their creation.

The US had, until then, pursued a policy of pretending that their extravagantly well-financed “friend,” Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, was capable of leading a democratic government in Iraq. He never was. Many observers had long felt that Maliki was not capable of leading anything other than a self-promotion campaign. Perhaps it was that particular resemblance to Western politicians that caused some in the US government to mistake Maliki as a functioning politician as opposed to a common circus clown.

 

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki Image by US government, public domain.

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki
Image by US government, public domain.

 

The collapse of the Iraqi Army leadership in response to the ISIS invasion forced the US to stop pretending that Maliki was anything like a “leader.” At the urging of the US, Iraq formed a new government with the less laughable and more pragmatic Haider al-Abadi taking the lead as Prime Minister.

Students of world history will undoubtedly wonder what “US urging” looked like in this case. Was it something dark, complex, and difficult? Did it involve secret assassinations or long propaganda campaigns? No, and no. The US simply explained that without changes, next month’s check would not be arriving.

Rather than expose himself to the justifiable wrath that would soon be unleashed on him by the people of Iraq, Maliki took the pro-Maliki option and stepped down. Under new leadership, the Iraqi military is beginning to resemble a real military, and it appears that, with the assistance of the Kurds and US air support, it will begin to push ISIS out of Iraq. Whether or not this or any future US administration will have learned any long term lessons from the fantastically expensive Maliki debacle remains to be seen.

 

President Barack Obama Re: Nuclear talks with Iran ". . . according to their Supreme Leader, it would be contrary to their faith to obtain a nuclear weapon, if that is true, there should be the possibility of getting a deal." Obama quote, Feb 9, 2015, joint news conference with German PM Angela Merkel. Image by Gage Skidmore, wikimedia commons.

President Barack Obama
Re: Nuclear talks with Iran
“. . . according to their Supreme Leader, it would be contrary to their faith to obtain a nuclear weapon, if that is true, there should be the possibility of getting a deal.”
Obama quote, Feb 9, 2015, joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Image by Gage Skidmore, wikimedia commons.

 

A less straightforward and more mystifying case can be seen in changing relations between the US and Iran.

As near as rational observers can determine, based on the information thus far available, the change has been minimal. Previously, US-Iran relations were a case of the US completely distrusting Iran and worrying about its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, but not doing much about it. In return, Iran responded by pretending to not want nuclear weapons while continuing to pretend to love or hate the rest of the world depending on the time of day.

In particular, Iran vacillates between claiming that it is no threat to Israel and claiming that it will annihilate Israel, Zionists, and those that sympathize with Zionists. Iran has not budged an inch from its decades of anti-Western/anti-Israel policies, yet the US is now oddly pretending to trust Iran. Iranian Shia Revolutionary Guards are now operating openly in Iraq with US acquiescence, and the White House now seems convinced that Iran isn’t really developing nuclear weapons after all. This one-sided rapprochement with Iran seems to be an unwise change in US foreign policy.

That leads us to another simple case: US-Israel relations.

The US government’s increasing friendliness toward Iran and the Israeli perception that the US has gone soft on terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah has complicated relations between the two allies. To understand the US alliance with Israel, one must pragmatically ignore personal sympathies and admit that the relationship has been rather one-sided for over half a century.

 

Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter, and Menahem Begin at Camp David Accords Image from US National Archives, public domain.

Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter, and Menahem Begin
at Camp David Accords
Image from US National Archives, public domain.

 

Confident of continued US financial and military support, Israel has never made much effort to consider US interests in the region when making foreign policy decisions. Israel has only been able to do this because successive US administrations consistently allowed it. The one major instance of Israel acceding to US pressure was the Camp David Accords. The result of the Accords has been of mixed value from Israel’s point of view. Israel now enjoys better relations with Egypt and Jordan, but Syria, the Palestinians, and Iranian-controlled Hezbollah remain at war with it.

From the US point of view, it often seems like we should expect more cooperation from Israel. From the Israeli point of view, it often seems like trusting in US idealism will lead to the death of Israel. In practical terms, the current tension in US-Israel relations changes almost nothing. It likely will require a change of US administration before US-Israel relations improve, and there is no guarantee that the next administration will seek closer relations with Israel. In the meantime, the US will continue to send the checks.

One if the more complex foreign policy cases in the Middle East is that of US-Egypt relations.

 

Egyptian Protestors, Tahrir Square, November, 2011. Image by Lilian Wagdy, wikimedia commons.

Egyptian Protestors, Tahrir Square, November, 2011.
Image by Lilian Wagdy, wikimedia commons.

 

 

The US relationship with Egypt since the Camp David Accords in 1978 has been fairly stable. The Mubarak dynasty did what it wanted, left Israel alone, and received lots of cash from the US. After the Mubarak dynasty collapsed in 2011, the Egyptian military took control of the country until elections were held in 2011. Some Middle Eastern potentates wondered why the US had so quickly abandoned “their guy” in Egypt. In any event, the US had little influence in the Egyptian version of the “Arab Spring” that lead to the “Mubarak Winter.”

In 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood won elections in Egypt, and Mohammed Morsi became the president. Morsi then quickly forgot his centrist moderate views and proceeded to try to consolidate power in his office while moving Egypt toward an Islamic theocracy. Many believed the elections were rigged, and As Morsi became more theocratic, many of his own supporters felt betrayed.

In 2013, Morsi was removed from office by the Egyptian military. Although he and his radical supporters had clearly lost the support of much of the membership of the Muslim Brotherhood and the rest of Egypt, the US reacted negatively to what they considered a coup. As required by US law, coups prevent any US aid from continuing. The rule is often ignored. In the case of Egypt, the administration wavered, and most of the military and other financial aid to Egypt continued. Nonetheless, the US response to the Egyptian military’s removal of Morsi aggravated the Egyptian military and many civilians. From their point of view, they had saved Egypt from becoming the “next Iran.” Morsi had been positioning himself as increasingly anti-West, anti-US, and anti-Saudi, so most Egyptians expected the US to be glad for Morsi’s removal.

 

Egyptians Celebrate Morsi's Ouster Image from Voice of America, July 7, 2013, public domain.

Egyptians Celebrate Morsi’s Ouster
Image from Voice of America, July 7, 2013, public domain.

 

In 2014, military leader Abdul al-Sisi won the presidential election. In theory, US-Egypt relations became simpler again with democracy appearing to be functioning in Egypt. The US was happy to have the sticking points gone from US foreign aid, but al-Sisi now has little confidence in his friendship with the US.

One obvious and interesting symptom of the cooling of US-Egypt relations is that Egypt has signed an agreement with France for the purchaser of French-made fighters. Anyone in the US government that happens to be awake this week might ask why, at a time when US unemployment is so high, US tax dollars are going to purchase French-made fighters for the Egyptian Air Force.

At the same time, Egypt has now joined in in the fight against ISIS, though they have been clear that they are operating on their own and not as a part of a US coalition. As in the case of Israel, it will likely require a new US administration for US-Egypt relations to improve. Whether or not the next US administration will develop better relations with Egypt or wish to continue foreign aid to Egypt remains to be seen.

Next week in Part Two, we will look at the changing relationship of the US and Turkey.

Another Day, Another Battle–The Israeli Counter-Attack on Hamas

By Jay Holmes

In April of 2014, Hamas, which governs the Palestinian Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which governs the Palestinian areas of the West Bank, agreed to make peace and form a unity government. Predictably, Israel reacted negatively to the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. Israel viewed it as a victory for radicalism and terrorism within the Palestinian camp.

 

Woman holding Hamas flag. Unaltered image by Kimdime.

Woman holding Hamas flag.
Unaltered image by Kimdime.

 

The governments of China, the EU, India, Turkey, and the USA joined the UN in agreeing to negotiate with the new Hamas-Fatah unity government. These countries and organizations announced their agreement to work with the Hamas-Fatah union in spite of the fact that Hamas has not waivered from its stated central goal of annihilating Israel and converting all of Palestine, including what is now Israel, into a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist state. This was particularly odd on the part of the EU and the USA, since those governments had previously been very clear in declaring Hamas to be a terror organization.

After the EU and the USA announced their acceptance of the new Hamas-Fatah union, Israel became less receptive toward EU/USA brokered peace negotiations. From the Israeli point of view, the EU and the USA could easily afford to trust the new Palestinian unity government because rockets from Gaza and terrorist attacks originating in Gaza and the West Bank would not be targeting either of them. The new Palestinian government took power on June 2, 2014.

On June 12, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped from the West Bank. At the same time, the number of Hamas’s rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel increased sharply. The Israeli Air Force responded to the increased rocket attacks by launching air strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza.

 

Israel Defense Forces searching for kidnapped teens near Hebron. Unaltered image by Israel Defense Forces.

Israel Defense Forces searching for kidnapped teens near Hebron.
Unaltered image by Israel Defense Forces.

 

Hamas did not claim the kidnappings of the three teens. The culpability for that action lies with Hamas’s affiliated terror group, Qawasameh. However, not wanting to miss an opportunity to pursue its favorite pastime of shooting itself in the foot, Hamas loudly applauded the kidnappings of the three Israeli children. Evidence indicates that Hamas had supplied weapons and cash to Qawasameh to conduct these kidnappings and murders.

The kidnappings and Hamas’s gloating about them have served to silence the voices of reconciliation within Israel. On June 30, the dead bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens were found near Hebron. The Israeli government came under increasing pressure from its citizens to act against the kidnappers. In July, Israel rounded up Hamas leaders and some of their affiliated terrorist pals in the West Bank.

On July 17, Israel and Hamas agreed to a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire for the purpose of delivering food and medicine to Gaza. After the ceasefire ended, the Israeli Army entered Gaza with the stated purpose of destroying tunnels that served Hamas and other terrorist groups as weapons depots and passages for terrorist raids into Israel from Gaza. The Israelis claim that they found evidence indicating plans to use the tunnels for a massive, coordinated terrorist strike against Israel in September of this year.

 

 

On August 1, the EU and the USA announced that they had negotiated a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire to assist the thousands of wounded Palestinians in Gaza. About an hour into the ceasefire, Hamas fighters demonstrated their usual lack of concern for the Palestinians in Gaza by attacking Israeli Army forces and negating the ceasefire.

On August 3, the Israeli Army announced that it had destroyed most of the known Hamas tunnel networks, and that it had withdrawn from most of Gaza. Two days later, the Israeli Army completed its withdrawal from all of Gaza.

As soon as Israel withdrew from Gaza, another 72-hour ceasefire took effect. This time, Hamas did not overtly violate the ceasefire. After the ceasefire ended, Hamas again launched rockets from Gaza into Israel, and the Israelis resumed shelling Gaza.

Thanks to Israel’s “Iron Dome” air defense system, most of the Hamas rockets did not reach targets in inhabited areas of Israel. Thanks to the Iron Dome system and Israel’s well-organized emergency medical facilities, the fatality rate during this summer’s fighting in Gaza have thus far amounted to less than one hundred Israeli deaths, but approximately 1,800 Palestinian deaths. Israel claims that between forty and fifty percent of the Palestinian deaths have been Hamas and affiliated combatants. Hamas claims that nearly all of the Palestinian deaths have been innocent civilians.

In Gaza, at least three UN facilities have been hit. The assumption has been that they were hit by Israel, but Israel points out that they never target UN aid locations or shelters, and Israel says it suspects that Hamas is responsible for at least some of the damage to UN locations. The TV coverage of grief stricken refugees weeping over dead children in UN shelters has been a public relations disaster for Israel, but what actually occurred and who is responsible for the tragedies has not yet been determined. If evidence indicates that Israel is not responsible for the attacks on UN locations, it will still be too late to prevent the public relations damage.

Interestingly, the Arab nations have not loudly condemned Israeli military action. This might be because many of Hamas’s usual allies in Kuwait and Qatar are experiencing second thoughts about instigating radical Islamic movements as they watch ISIS Islamic fundamentalists rape and pillage their way across neighboring Iraq. Most of the condemnation of Israel has come from the UN and from the West.

 

Apartment yard destroyed by Hamas rocket Unaltered image by The Israel Project.

Apartment yard destroyed by Hamas rocket
Unaltered image by The Israel Project.

 

Since Hamas’s consolidation of power in Gaza in 2005, Western nations have almost completely stopped economic aid to Gaza. At the same time, Israel has tried to maintain an effective blockade of Gaza to prevent increased imports of rocket parts and other weapons from Iran. It is at times amusing to listen to various Iranian government spokesmen contradict each other as they brag about giving rockets, improved rocket technology, and other weapons to Hamas, while simultaneously denying sending Hamas rockets and weapons. I imagine that Iranian government foreign policy meetings must resemble a Three Stooges episode or a Marx Brothers movie.

In any event, while the rockets continue to fly into Israel from Gaza, the Israelis aren’t laughing. The exchange of fire between Hamas and their affiliates in Gaza and the Israeli Army continues. Early Sunday morning, August 10, Hamas rejected peace talks in Egypt. Then, around 8 A.M. Washington, D.C. time, Hamas announced that it is willing to participate in peace talks in Egypt. It could well be by the time this article is published that Hamas will have changed their minds three more times.

So what does this all mean for Israel and the Palestinian people in the near future? Sadly, my best guess is that although Hamas might be temporarily motivated to lower the level of fighting, they will still maintain their despotic rule in Gaza while they attempt to improve and replenish their rocket inventory with help from Iran. The Israelis will try to improve their very expensive Iron Dome system while simultaneously trying to improve their intelligence on terrorist activity by Hamas and their affiliate gangs in Gaza. The Israeli people will continue to live with the tension that has always been pervasive in Israel, and the civilians in Gaza will continue to suffer under the miserable administration that Hamas and Fatah have thus far delivered.

For the rest of the world, I would not recommend a vacation to either Gaza or Israel right now. Tragically, millions of children caught in the middle of the conflict don’t have that choice.

When Giants Dance — The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

When the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict recently flared up, Holmes and I discussed the possibility of a fresh article on the topic. We concluded, however, that there was nothing fresh to say. To verify this, I looked up an article that Holmes wrote in November, 2012, which was the last time the ancient hostilities peaked. This is that same article, word for word. It was true then. It is true now. Generally speaking, it has been true for decades. We hope for the day when it is no longer true.

~ Piper Bayard

Israeli white phosphorous attack on UN school unaltered image by HRW, wikimedia commons

Israeli white phosphorous attack on UN school
unaltered image by HRW, wikimedia commons

When Giants Dance

By Jay Holmes

Today, news watchers in the West are seeing reports about the Israeli bombing of Gaza. Some are wondering if this week’s events in Israel and Gaza are the start World War Three.

My best guess is that this conflict will not escalate to that point, but if you happen to live in Gaza, it might feel like World War Three this week. If you happen to live in southern Israel, where the rockets fall every week, it might feel like that all the time.

Before throwing one more opinion into what will certainly not be the bloodiest war, but likely the most mediated war, let’s take a moment to consider the children on both sides of the border. These children have no control over the relations between Gaza and Israel, but the one constant tragedy in Gaza and southern Israel is that the children always suffer.

Of course, when I use the term “mediated” I am referring to the fact that the world’s “media” will deliver fantastic volumes of information about the current phase of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It is sad how little of that information will be accurate or fairly presented. However, all of that information will likely generate revenue for the media industry.

To attempt to understand the current events in Gaza, we can help ourselves by considering a few of the less obvious facts.

We in the West think of Hamas as being in control of Gaza. Hamas likes to think that, as well, but it is not altogether accurate. Hamas appears to be one more run-of-the-mill Islamic terror group marching happily in step with all the other Islamic terror groups. But terrorists wreak havoc. This leaves them unskilled at performing anything like government. As a result, Hamas cannot control what goes on in Gaza.

Hamas is not even able to march happily in step with itself, which seriously impairs its ability to influence other Islamic terrorists in the area. The chaotic conditions in Gaza allowed competing terror groups to vacation there, and some of those vacationers decided to stay. Those groups do not obey Hamas. They obey whoever provides them with cash, weapons, hash, hookers, etc. Usually Syria and Iran would be that somebody, but Saudi Arabia and Gulf states are sometimes soft touches for cute young terror groups.

We in the West are not supposed to believe such dastardly things about our Saudi “friends.” However, the New American Reality Dictionary defines “friends” as, “Anyone who ships oil to the US.”

Many Americans find that disgusting. Many of those same Americans drive gasoline-consuming cars every day while they are finding that disgusting. Yes. Even my own car runs on gasoline, not on peaceful thoughts or good will.

Regardless of where the cash and weapons come from, we know where many of them end up—on Israeli roof tops. The current Israeli leader is Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israelis call him something else. I call him Beny Buddy. He calls me nothing at all. He never even calls me. I am not his friend. I’m not sure Beny does the friendship thing much. Living in that region might do that to a man.

In any event, his name hardly matters since this conflict predates him. Netanyahu and Likud, his political party, cannot remain in power if hundreds of rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza continue to land in Israel every month. From the Israeli perspective, the motives for the looming Israeli operations in Gaza are simple. The Israeli people don’t like rockets and bombs falling on their heads, and the current Israeli leadership does not like losing elections. Also, with Iran increasing the potency and quality of its missiles, the Israeli intelligence services might be feeling less patient than usual about the Gaza launch base.

The Hamas motives are a little trickier to define.

It takes a bit of guesswork, and that is because they are still guessing about it themselves. As long as Gaza remains in a state of chaos without any worthwhile government, and as long as start up terror groups are cutting their teeth in “Palestine,” anything can happen. And now it has.

While the Israelis love driving American tanks, they don’t always love American methods. Israel is not living on a giant Chinese credit card like the Pentagon is. If Israel calls up reservists, which it has, and it moves armor toward Gaza, it is NOT because Israelis think it is fun to waste fuel they cannot produce and can barely afford. Those tanks will end up in Gaza.

Hamas fully realizes this, and they are currently doing their best impersonation of innocent victims. They are not great actors, but they play for an easy audience—the Western media and Islamic-financed propaganda outlets. Hamas wants to generate “international outrage” as quickly as it can in order to give Israel as little time as possible to drive around Gaza blowing up rocket supplies with those cool tanks.

The Israeli lobbyists and propaganda outlets will seek the opposite. But Israelis are currently out of fad with a majority of Western voters, so they will be looking rather frustrated if you see them prowling the halls of the capitol or sitting in for some attack journalism by CNN interviewers.

I can just imagine a call from Iran to Hamas . . . “Okay. We’re sending more rockets. Rockets are supposed to blow up on those Jews, NOT in Gaza. Rockets don’t grow on trees, you know. If you can’t learn to take care of the rockets we give you, maybe we need to give them to someone else.”

One can find absurd humor in all of this as long as one does not live in or have relatives living in the region. Then the humor begins to pale. The children of Israel and Gaza have little to laugh at this week. They won’t have much next week, either.

When Giants Dance–Perspective on the Current Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

By Intelligence Operative Jay Holmes* and Azad

Image by Edi Israel, wikimedia commons

Today, news watchers in the West are seeing reports about the Israeli bombing of Gaza. Some are wondering if this week’s events in Israel and Gaza are the start World War Three.

My best guess is that this conflict will not escalate to that point, but if you happen to live in Gaza, it might feel like World War Three this week. If you happen to live in southern Israel, where the rockets fall every week, it might feel like that all the time.

Before throwing one more opinion into what will certainly not be the bloodiest war, but likely the most mediated war, let’s take a moment to consider the children on both sides of the border. These children have no control over the relations between Gaza and Israel, but the one constant tragedy in Gaza and southern Israel is that the children always suffer.

Of course, when I use the term “mediated” I am referring to the fact that the world’s “media” will deliver fantastic volumes of information about the current phase of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It is sad how little of that information will be accurate or fairly presented. However, all of that information will likely generate revenue for the media industry.

To attempt to understand the current events in Gaza, we can help ourselves by considering a few of the less obvious facts. We in the West think of Hamas as being in control of Gaza. Hamas likes to think that, as well, but it is not altogether accurate. Hamas appears to be one more run-of-the-mill Islamic terror group marching happily in step with all the other Islamic terror groups. But terrorists wreak havoc. This leaves them unskilled at performing anything like government. As a result, Hamas cannot control what goes on in Gaza.

Hamas is not even able to march happily in step with itself, which seriously impairs its ability to influence other Islamic terrorists in the area. The chaotic conditions in Gaza allowed competing terror groups to vacation there, and some of those vacationers decided to stay. Those groups do not obey Hamas. They obey whoever provides them with cash, weapons, hash, hookers, etc. Usually Syria and Iran would be that somebody, but Saudi Arabia and Gulf states are sometimes soft touches for cute young terror groups.

We in the West are not supposed to believe such dastardly things about our Saudi “friends.” However, the New American Reality Dictionary defines “friends” as, “Anyone who ships oil to the US.”

Many Americans find that disgusting. Many of those same Americans drive gasoline-consuming cars every day while they are finding that disgusting. Yes. Even my own car runs on gasoline, not on peaceful thoughts or good will.

Regardless of where the cash and weapons come from, we know where many of them end up—on Israeli roof tops. The current Israeli leader is Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israelis call him something else. I call him Beny Buddy. He calls me nothing at all. He never even calls me. I am not his friend. I’m not sure Beny does the friendship thing much. Living in that region might do that to a man.

In any event, his name hardly matters since this conflict predates him. Netanyahu and Likud, his political party, cannot remain in power if hundreds of rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza continue to land in Israel every month. From the Israeli perspective, the motives for the looming Israeli operations in Gaza are simple. The Israeli people don’t like rockets and bombs falling on their heads, and the current Israeli leadership does not like losing elections. Also, with Iran increasing the potency and quality of its missiles, the Israeli intelligence services might be feeling less patient than usual about the Gaza launch base.

The Hamas motives are a little trickier to define. It takes a bit of guesswork, and that is because they are still guessing about it themselves. As long as Gaza remains in a state of chaos without any worthwhile government, and as long as start up terror groups are cutting their teeth in “Palestine,” anything can happen. And now it has.

While the Israelis love driving American tanks, they don’t always love American methods. Israel is not living on a giant Chinese credit card like the Pentagon is. If Israel calls up reservists, which it has, and it moves armor toward Gaza, it is NOT because Israelis think it is fun to waste fuel they cannot produce and can barely afford. Those tanks will end up in Gaza.

Hamas fully realizes this, and they are currently doing their best impersonation of innocent victims. They are not great actors, but they play for an easy audience—the Western media and Islamic-financed propaganda outlets. Hamas wants to generate “international outrage” as quickly as it can in order to give Israel as little time as possible to drive around Gaza blowing up rocket supplies with those cool tanks.

The Israeli lobbyists and propaganda outlets will seek the opposite. But Israelis are currently out of fad with a majority of Western voters so they will be looking rather frustrated if you see them prowling the halls of the capitol or sitting in for some attack journalism by CNN interviewers.

I can just imagine a call from Iran to Hamas . . . “Okay. We’re sending more rockets. Rockets are supposed to blow up on those Jews, NOT in Gaza. Rockets don’t grow on trees, you know. If you can’t learn to take care of the rockets we give you, maybe we need to give them to someone else.”

One can find absurd humor in all of this as long as one does not live in or have relatives living in the region. Then the humor begins to pale. The children of Israel and Gaza have little to laugh at this week. They won’t have much next week, either.

I am happy that today that I can include the opinions of a civilian working in Egypt this week. He is neither Palestinian nor Jewish; he is Lebanese. He is a respected and highly educated member of the business community. English is not his first language, nor his second or third. Piper and I prefer to leave his work unedited to avoid accidentally changing the meaning. I hope that he can shed some light on the current violence in the Gaza area.

Between his prayers for his family’s safety, our friend, Azad, sent the following statement.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

The never-ending conflict

Earlier this week, Israeli defense forces (IDF) launched operation Amud Anan (operation pillar of cloud) with the killing of Ahmed Jabari, chief of the Gaza military wing of Hamas. The Israeli government stated that the purpose behind this operation is to cut short the flow of missile attacks launched from the Gaza strip and to deteriorate the capabilities of militant organizations.

The escalation of the clashes is within the frame of the long-term Israeli Palestinian conflict, but different interpretations are emerging as the conflict parallels with the Middle Eastern turmoil. Until further reasons come into view, three different readings are on the table:

The Israeli election is around the corner and to ensure his win for another term Benjamin Netanyahu wants to settle Hamas’ issue once and for all. After the start of the Israeli operation, Palestinian militants further intensified their rocket attacks on Israel. Mortars hit Tel Aviv for the first time since 1991 and Jerusalem since 1970 subsequently. Halting these mortars will definitely guarantee the centre right Likud party for another term.

On the Palestinian side, Mahmoud Abbas is trying to harness Hamas in an effort to unite the Palestinian front once again after the split of Hamas from the Palestinian authority and bestowing an Islamic government in 2006, and the consequent ousting of Fatah. After the unification the Palestinian authority intended to petition for a UN vote to become a full member state in the worldwide organization, which the US and Israeli government condemned and stated that it will not serve the peaceful progress between the counterparts; hence, a conflict to defer the voting until further notice.

On another hand, the European Union, United States of America, and several western countries back Israel and express an explicit support for Israel’s right to defend its citizens; while Russia, Iran, and several Arabic countries being behind Hamas condemn the Israeli attack. This dichotomy instigates a nostalgic of the cold war between the East and the West. The post-soviet state coming into picture again should never be underestimated, especially since a Chinese and Russian coalition could change the equation on many levels.

Whether the conflict is for political gains, UN recognition, or a new divergence of power in the region the death toll rises from both sides while the United Nations Security Council remains at a dead end after holding an emergency session on the situation.

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Our profound thanks to Azad for his keen observations. Many prayers for his family, and for all of the families and children who are left scrambling for cover when the Giants dance.

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*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.

© 2012 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

Special Operations – Major-General Orde Charles Wingate

By Jay Holmes

On March 24, 1944 at an air base behind Japanese lines, British Major-General Orde Wingate boarded an American crewed B-25 Mitchell Bomber for a flight to Imphal, India. Wingate was likely intending some heated arguments with members of the RAF staff and members of British Army General Slim’s staff.

The arguments were in no way unusual. Wingate was highly opinionated, particularly in presenting his ideas about special operations. The fact that at 41 he was usually the youngest flag officer in attendance at any meeting did not keep him from forcefully arguing his point of view. But the great Orde Wingate had had his last argument.

On the way to Imphal, the plane crashed, and Wingate, the other passengers, and the crew members were all killed. It is perhaps an ironic tribute to Wingate that arguments still surround the details of the crash.

Orde Charles Wingate was born in Naini Tal, India on February 26, 1903. His father was a very religious British military officer. His equally devout Christian mother was a distant cousin of the ever eccentric but highly effective T.E. Lawrence of Lawrence of Arabia fame.

When Wingate was two, his father retired from the army, and the family returned to England, where Wingate spent most of his childhood. Wingate was homeschooled. When he did enter a British public school at age 12, his parents did not allow him to participate in sports or other social activities because they did not want his religious values corrupted by British society. Instead, he went straight home to face academic tutelage from his well-educated parents. In particular, his parents demanded that he become an expert on the Bible.

In 1921, Wingate was accepted to the Royal Military Academy at Woolrich. When senior cadets tried to haze him in the form of a gauntlet run, Wingate instead challenged each of them to try to hit him one at a time. They all declined.

In 1923, he received his commission in the British Army. He was posted to a battery in the Salisbury Plain in Larkhill, England, where he sharpened his already considerable skill in horsemanship.

In 1926, Wingate received an appointment to attend the prestigious Military School of Equitation where he quickly out-rode the young cavalry officers in attendance. When Wingate failed to hide his pleasure in besting some of Great Britain’s finest cavalry officers, he made some enemies.

In 1926, Wingate was sent to the School of Oriental Studies in London to study Oriental Languages. He passed his language exams in March of 1927.

In 1928, Wingate was temporarily transferred to the Sudanese Defense Force. He quickly retrained his native soldiers and instituted new border patrol tactics. His team successfully ambushed many slave traders and poachers moving through the Sudan. Wingate was soon promoted to the rank of Major. While he was highly successful in the field, his argumentative style made him more political enemies within the British hierarchy in the Sudan.

image from cakitches.com

In 1933, Wingate returned to Great Britain and helped in the modernization and mechanization of Britain’s artillery forces. During the process, he furthered his reputation as a brilliant but arrogant officer with little regard for tradition.

In 1936, Wingate was sent to the British Mandate of the Palestine as a staff intelligence officer. Because of his Christian religious devotion, he became highly involved with Jewish political groups there.

Bedouin raiders frequently attacked the Palestine from across the Arabian border as a consequence of “the Arab Revolt of 1936,” and the attacks were worsening. Keep in mind that this was British territory at the time, and Israel did not yet exist. The Bedouin raiders were attacking the British and Jews.

Without much concern for British Foreign Office opinions or policies, Wingate began to actively train and assist Jewish fighters in forming small commando teams.Finally, after obtaining the consent of British General Wavell, these teams began nighttime counter insurgency operations and they were highly successful in ambushing Bedouin raiders. At Wingate’s instigation, his teams crossed over the Palestine Mandate border and raided whatever villages housed or supported the enemy.

Captain Wingate with Moshe Sharett, second Prime Minister of Israel, image from ynetnews.com

Reports of Wingate’s village attacks by eventually landed on Wavell’s desk, and Wavell reprimanded Wingate. However, the British Command apparently left Wingate on a long leash, and the cross border counter raids continued. Though many of the Jewish and British leaders found them to be morally objectionable, the spectacular results that Wingate achieved gained him the respect of many senior British leaders in both the military and the government.

Eventually, Wingate’s close relationship with Jewish political leaders made the British command uncomfortable In 1939, the British Army transferred Wingate back to Great Britain.

Moshe Dayan, who would later be Chief of Staff of the Israeli Military, claimed that Orde Wingate taught the early Israeli fighters everything they knew. Wingate still remains a hero in Israel today.

In the fall of 1939, when Great Britain became involved in World War II, Wingate was in charge of an anti-aircraft unit in England. He suggested to senior officials in the British Army that a Jewish Army be formed to take control of the British Palestine and all of Arabia in the name of the UK. Not everyone in the British Government received Wingate’s idea cheerfully, and some suggested he was of questionable sanity.

When General Wavell, who was commanding the British Mid-eastern forces at the time, heard of Wingate’s suggestions, he requested that Wingate be transferred to Cairo where he could put his talents to use in organizing strikes against the Italians in Ethiopia.

Wingate and Emperor Selassie inspecting Gideon Force, image from ordewingate.net

Wingate quickly organized what would become the famous “Gideon Force,” made up of British volunteers, Sudanese, Ethiopians and some Jewish irregulars who had answered Wingate’s call for help. The Force of 1700 successfully attacked Italian communications and supplies in Ethiopia. They also managed to tie down several thousand Italian soldiers in defensive garrisons while a British Army attacked from the north. During their campaign, the Gideon Force remarkably captured over 20,000 Italian soldiers and destroyed vast quantities of Italian supplies.

In Sunday’s post, we will look at how Major-General Orde Wingate and his Long Range Penetration Forces influenced the course of World War II in Southeast Asia, and how a British major general came to rest at Arlington.

When Does Justice Cease to Matter?

By Jay Holmes

This weekend, two seemingly disconnected pieces of news were announced. One informed us that Libya’s former intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, was arrested Saturday at an airport in Mauritania. The other was that convicted Sobibor Nazi extermination camp guard John Demjanjuk died in prison in Germany. While the two events might seem to have little connection, I think they are both related to a central issue of civilization.

John Demjanjuk – image from jssnews.com

I first heard the name John Demjanjuk in 1985 when Israel sought his extradition as a war criminal. Survivors of the Nazi holocaust had recognized Demjanjuk as Ivan the Terrible, an infamous prison guard who acted with singular cruelty against Jewish prisoners at Sobibor and Treblinka.

My first reaction to the news at the time was astonishment. I wondered just how actively hateful and cruel one had to be to stand out as a villain amongst Nazi concentration camp guards. My second reaction at the time was one of disgust when I heard media pundits debating whether or not it was “worth it at this point” to pursue a WWII war criminal. I wanted to ask the pundits precisely how many days after the murder of an innocent child does the murder become irrelevant? When does the dead child, or in this case the many thousands of victims of Ivan the Terrible’s brutality, cease to matter? What is the shelf life of justice? What is the sell-by date of morality?

In the Demjanjuk case, Israel was able to present enough evidence to gain Demjanjuk’s extradition. He was tried for the brutal murders of prisoners in 1942 and 1943.

Israel found twenty-two surviving witnesses who identified Demjanjuk as a guard who had sadistically and routinely tortured and murdered prisoners, including young children, for his own personal recreation. One of the witnesses was a fellow death camp guard, who in turn came under scrutiny as a possible war criminal after the trial.

Demjanjuk was convicted, and in 1988, he received a death sentence. In most countries, that would be the end of the story save for the line about his death by hanging or stoning, but Demjanjuk wasn’t convicted in “most countries.” He was convicted in Israel—one of those minority nations that has a workable justice system that isn’t directly ruled by hysteria or a drug mafia.

Since he was in Israel, Demjanjuk was entitled to a legitimate system of appeals. Rather than giving in to the rage they must have felt and rubber stamping his case to expedite his execution, the Israeli appeals court granted time for the defense team (paid for by Israeli tax payers) to prepare for each level of appeal.

In 1993, in what struck me as a remarkable case of restraint and adherence to due process, the Israeli Supreme Court overturned Demjanjuk’s conviction for the murders. This was based on the fact that there was some small chance that all twenty-two witnesses might have accidentally confused him with another death camp guard.

At the time, I wondered if any of the SS death camp guards and their Ukrainian volunteers did not deserve execution. I wondered if the small risk of confused identity in this case mattered much.

At the same time, I had to look at the case as proof that, unlike most of the world’s court systems, the Israeli court system had done its absolute best to deliver a just verdict in spite of what must have been the court members’ almost unbearable personal grief.

Although the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling disappointed me, I felt great admiration for their self-restraint and their ability to put their sworn duty above their deep personal feelings. It was an act of tremendous moral courage. It was an example of precisely the moral courage that the Nazis lacked, and that allowed them to perpetrate such a terrible holocaust against millions of Jews, Slavs, Rom, communists, moral objectors, homosexuals, and Catholics.

So did the Israelis then try and convict him of the war crimes committed by his “alter identity”? No. The courts ruled that for one, his extradition was for the specific charges, and that they would honor the strict conditions of the extradition and release him back to the United States.  And for two, a retrial on lesser charges would, under the circumstances of that particular case, violate the principles of double jeopardy as defined by the Israeli legal system. By then, much of the furor over Ivan the Terrible had died down.

In 1988, the US (another one of those few nations with an imperfect but believable court system) restored Demjanjuk’s citizenship. This was based on the fact that evidence that Demjanjuk was the “other” brutal guard was not shared with his defense team in the original extradition case and subsequent appeals. Because he might have been a different mass murderer instead of the one he was originally accused of being, he got off. But not completely.

In 1999, Demjanjuk faced federal charges that he was a member of the Ukrainian SS auxiliary and that he had served in death camps. (Everyone, including Demjanjuk, agreed that he was a member of that dreadful group.) “Both” Demjanjuks had at least that much in common.

In 2004, after five more years of legal process, Demjanjuk, who admitted being a former member of the Ukrainian SS auxiliary, finally had his citizenship revoked again. For the next five years, Demjanjuk could not be deported because no nation with adequate deportation agreements with the USA would accept him.

In 2008, the German justice ministry decided that they could and should try Demjanjuk for the easily provable charges that he had served in several death camps as a Ukrainian SS volunteer. Demjanjuk and his legal team resisted extradition to Germany. On what grounds, you ask? Why, on the grounds the deporting an elderly man with health problems constituted “torture.” That from the death camp goon.

On May 12, 2011, some minute measure of “justice” was given to the memory of the millions of concentration camp victims when Demjanjuk was convicted of accessory to the murder of 27,000 prisoners. He was sentenced to five years in prison with credit for the two years he had already spent.

On March 17, 2012, John Demjanjuk died in an old age home in Germany.

In their desperate need to be relevant on the world stage, Putin and his boys are claiming they have documents proving that Demjanjuk was not Ivan the Terrible. The documents would, I suppose, show that documents previously released by the USSR were forgeries of older documents covered up by them, and that I should now believe the new documents somehow prove something. It hardly matters. Demjanjuk admitted that he was a member of the Ukrainian auxiliary of the Nazi SS. The only confusion would be whether he was “Murderer A” or “Murderer B.” Neither deserved less than what Demjanjuk went through.

The justice was imperfect and inadequate, but it was never superfluous.

So who is the strange man who was arrested at an airport in Mauritania, and why does he matter? He is Abdullah Senussi, Moammar Qaddafi’s brother-in-law. At various times, he was the head of Qaddafi’s terrorist export business and the head of his internal security forces. Senussi had nothing to do with the Nazi plague, but he had a great deal to due with the plague that was visited upon Libya and upon terrorist victims around the world by Qaddafi.

Many believe, including me, that Abdullah al-Senussi was instrumental in the terror bombing of the La Belle disco in Berlin in 1986, which killed three people and injured 230, as well as the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which resulted in the deaths of another 270. Also, Senussi was convicted in absentia in France in 1999 for the 1989 terror bombing of the French UTA flight 772, which resulted in 171 deaths.

Senussi’s foreign murder record pales in comparison to his energetic campaigns to annihilate Libyans who opposed his brother-in-law. He even once bragged about his masterful handling of the massacre of 1,700 political prisoners at Libya’s Abu Salim prison in 1996.

The precise number of deaths in which Senussi had a hand will never be known. Compared to the Nazis, the Qaddafi gang was small time in the murder arena. The number of deaths that they inflicted will never be known, but if it was your child or your loved one, then that one is hugely significant.

Lots of folks are interested in getting their hands on Abdullah Senussi. So far, France and Libya have requested that he be turned over to them. Scotland is probably working on an extradition request tonight as I write this article. Germany might contemplate it. The USA and the UK have reasons to speak to him, but might not bother getting in the extradition line. If he is brought to trial, we can expect, at best, an inadequate and incomplete justice. But more justice is better than no justice. I’ll take what I can get.

Without waiting for it to happen, I am willing to predict that some “pundits” will proffer the notion that trying Senussi is somehow contrary to the notion of “healing” Libya. Senussi was part of the very disease that made Libya so sick during the reign of Qaddafi and his murderers. Trying Senussi does not block Libya’s so far mostly imaginary progress toward achieving civilization. Undoubtedly, a few will argue that it’s “too late” and that it’s time to “leave the past in the past, etc.” But I would ask of them the same question that I would ask of those who wanted Demjanjuk “left alone.”

When do the deaths of the innocent children cease to matter?